- Associated Press - Saturday, November 7, 2015

VALENCIA, Spain (AP) - Title contender Jorge Lorenzo made a good start in the MotoGP finale by setting the fastest time in qualifying for the season-ending Valencia Grand Prix on Saturday.

Lorenzo’s record-breaking lap of 1 minute, 30.011 seconds at the Ricardo Tormo circuit, outside of Valencia, was 0.488 seconds ahead of Marc Marquez, and 0.505 seconds in front of Dani Pedrosa.

“It was the best lap of my life,” Lorenzo said. “I could try repeating it over and over again and I wouldn’t be able to do it the same way. It was perfect.”

Seven-time world champion Valentino Rossi, who has a seven-point lead over Lorenzo, fell on Turn 8 on his final flying lap, and was only 12th fastest in qualifying, 1.460 seconds behind Lorenzo. Rossi went down on the long left-handed turn, and the Italian slid into the gravel but was not seriously hurt.

The crash did not directly influence the title race because Rossi already knew he would have to start from the back of the grid after a penalty received in the previous race for kicking Marquez during a dispute for position, causing the Spaniard to crash and retire.

Rossi needs at least a second-place finish to guarantee his first title since 2009 without depending on Lorenzo’s result. He can also secure the title by finishing directly behind the Spaniard regardless of their positions.

“It will be very hard,” said Rossi, who admitted it was his mistake that led to the crash. “The bad news for the race is that Jorge rode to pole position, because we hoped he wouldn’t start first. But fortunately we don’t have to think about that, it’s not our problem, I just have to recover as much as possible.”

It was the fifth pole of the year for Lorenzo, and the 61st of his career, tying Rossi for the all-time record. Lorenzo hadn’t started in the front since the Japanese GP three races ago, and he hasn’t won since the Aragon GP four races ago. The Spanish rider is seeking his third MotoGP world title, adding to his triumphs in 2010 and 2012.

“There was no way to beat Lorenzo’s time,” Marquez said. “We will have to try to stay close so we can contend for the victory.”

Marquez, the winner of the last two MotoGP championships, has already secured third place in the standings. The Spaniard had the previous pole record with a lap of 1:30.237 seconds, set in 2013.

Pedrosa, the other Spaniard in the top three on the grid, has won two of the last three MotoGP races. He holds a two-point advantage over Andrea Iannone in the fight for fourth place in the standings. Iannone will start seventh on Sunday.

The Valencia GP became one of the most-anticipated races in the history of MotoGP after what happened between Rossi and Marquez at the Malaysian GP two weeks ago. Tired of being held back for a few laps in a fight for third place, the Italian pushed Marquez away with his left leg when they got side-by-side on a turn. The Italian later accused Marquez of ruining his championship in favor of Lorenzo.

Rossi asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport to dismiss the penalty that sent him to the back of the grid this weekend, but the request was denied on the eve of the first practice session in Valencia on Friday.

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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